GIBSON CITY – Cameron Siron wasn’t honored after either of his two tours in Vietnam, but the GCMS Veterans Day program last week gave students and community members a chance to finally thank Siron and dozens of other veterans for their service.
“When we came home, we were called 'baby killers,'” Siron said during a reception before the program. “People weren’t enthralled by the military.”
After a “long dry spell,” the attitude toward war veterans changed, said the Marine, who volunteers with Toys for Tots and participates in the Military Affinity Group at State Farm.
Now when he is in uniform at toys drives, people approach him and thank him for his service.
“It’s not just me who’s getting honored,” Siron said. “It’s all the guys serving.”
Wednesday, it was the GCMS students who did the honoring, as students from GCMS Elementary School, GCMS Middle School and GCMS High School played a part in the program, which featured special performances by the University of Illinois Detachment 190’s Drill Team, GCMS High School band and choir and GCMS Elementary School students.
“This is great,” Siron said. “It teaches them what the day is about.”
Siron attended the program with friend, Ed Lorenz, who also works at State Farm. For the second year in a row, Lorenz was the only veteran in attendance representing the United States Coast Guard. That isn't unusual, he said.
“There are 13,000 employees at State Farm and only two of us who served in the Coast Guard,” said Lorenz, who was stationed in Detroit in the early 1970s.
While Lorenz served in the smallest branch of the armed forces, keynote speaker Matthew Kreeb served in one of the Army’s most public. He was a guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
Kreeb described the difficult process of becoming a part of the "The Old Guard,” as well as the difficulties faced by guards who work through storms, illness and insects.
Guards didn’t even break composure on Sept. 11, 2001, as planes flew right over their heads and crashed into The Pentagon.
“We never interrupted our duty,” Kreeb said. “We continue to the highest of standards, beyond what’s even reasonable.”
They do that, Kreeb said, to show the highest respect for the highest sacrifice given.
“We go to extremes, beyond extremes even, because our heroes including some of those sitting here in this room, went to extremes in their duty,” he said.
Kreeb said Arlington, with its 350,000 dead, illustrates an important point on Veterans Day.
“It is overwhelming to consider the price our country comes at,” he said. “Remember why our heroes are honored.”